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Great Content

By what metric?

     
8:28 pm on Jun 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The greatest problem with creating niche content is that if information exists by definition competitors have beat you to the market and if it is new you are either breaking the story, rare, or playing catchup. Any competitive advantage remaining is probably found in better organising and packaging, better context and storytelling, better background and relationship connections, etc. Or, metaphorically simply, building a better mousetrap.

GREAT CONTENT MEETS USERS' NEEDS and supports key business objectives. It engages and informs. It is well-written and intuitively organized. It keeps people coming back for more.
---Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach, Content Strategy for the Web.


There is a lot of critical mindset and best content creation practice wrapped in the above quote. The kicker, the true test answer, where most self proclaimed 'great' content is shown to be not so great is that they have negligible to none at all return visitor traffic.
Having great content for ranking in Google has never been directly synonymous with having great content for visitors. The two can overlap but the level of overlap varies significantly depending on whether created primarily for Google (low) or the visitor (high).

As Google increasingly morphs from SE to portal this 'great' disconnect is coming home to roost. Many webdevs are finding that they created for and optimised for the wrong user. Once upon a time a decent strategy in short term but potentially disastrous long term (aka music stops before success exit); currently pretty much a pointless exercise in frustration for those not up to the stress of gaming the process, which in turn requires greater levels of technical expertise than ever.

If you are using the commonly recommended tools, be it for SEO, for content creation or marketing, etc. you are playing on the same level within the same constraints as competitors, any advantage will be minimal. You need to get out of the box, burst the bubble et al. Even slight changes can make a qualitative difference.
* if you use wikipedia as a starting point do so via the citations and links not the scraped body.

* if you use Google search do so via millionshort [millionshort.com], which removes 0, 100, 10K, 100K, 1-million most popular sites to discover what popular bias has hidden.

* delve into academic and literary sources: To get you started:
---Google Scholar [scholar.google.ca]
---Microsoft Academic [academic.microsoft.com]
---Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org]

* delve into government/public data sources. To get you started:
---Canada: Open Data Portal [open.canada.ca]
---CIA World Factbook [cia.gov]
---European Union: Open Data Portal [data.europa.eu]
---Library of Congress [loc.gov]
---UK: Open Data Portal [data.gov.uk]
---US Census Bureau [census.gov]
---US Open Data Portal [data.gov]

Start from a more solid foundation. Then build to meet users' needs while supporting your business objectives, engage and inform with well-written intuitively organised content. And test level of 'greatness' against return visits and conversions.

And then, once your content truly is 'great', put the same method to work at marketing.
Best wishes.
8:53 pm on June 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Having great content for ranking in Google has never been directly synonymous with having great content for visitors.


Sorry Charlie.

We (Google) don't want tuna with good taste ("great" content). We want tuna that tastes good (content that users want).

The "greatness" of content doesn't matter. You think Harry Potter books are "great" content and that's why it's sold so many books?

Greatness and what users want are two different things. I have been pointing this out for the past few years on WebmasterWorld. It's true then and is truer now more than ever. This is the state of search engines today.

This is the key insight for SEO today.
9:11 pm on June 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The concept of Great Content is "BS", in that the greatness of content can only be determined ex-post. That is the site that appears at the top of the rankings is deemed to have "great" content any site appearing lower down in the results, thus has "less-than-great" content.

Moreover, "good quality" content is necessary but not sufficient to rank well. Let us not mistake quality, for grade. Some niches may only require lower grade content, for example to the level of English on an academic website will be higher than for a coupon site. The quality means you are delivering to the required standard. A Toyota is a good quality car, a Mercedes is a luxury car, it is a higher grade but is likely of inferior quality. This same concept holds for web content.

RE: Millionshort.com
Interesting site, but in my niche it proves my point that content quality mean nothing. I searched for two keywords, one for which I rank and another for which I don't. The keywords target two separate pages for which the content is for all intents and purposes, identical except they target two different facets of my niche. For kw for which I rank I appear is 2nd place without any filtering, removing the top 100 sites puts me in first, and I remain there for all other filters. For the other KW my site never appears not with 100 filtered, not with 1M.

Again the content is identical, the source of the data is the same, the tables, the graphs, the template the only difference as I said was the facet. These facets are meaningful, not something trivial like color.

This proves my point that the quality of your content must be good, but it is not a determinant of your ability to rank.
9:19 pm on June 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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This is the key insight for SEO today.

To bad that it doesn't hold true, as my example above shows.

This is what in theory Google is hoping to achieve, but determining what user's want is not a trivial task. There is no clear metric from which this can be measured, instead Google uses proxies, such as backlinks. These proxies may work relatively well for high traffic, high competition niches but it not so well as one pushes out into the tail.
9:58 pm on June 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I think your example does tend to validate my point if the content is created with a focus on user intents and being easily understood.

Google uses more than links. More than traffic logs. More than clicks, too. Clicks as a signal for determining satisfaction has lost its value because of mobile. There is a lot of data they mine, so much in fact that they can even model user satisfaction, to predict it and do things like pull a site ranked on page two and promote it to page one if the ranking signals like links aren't strong enough.

Yes, links do get set aside for ranking purposes in some queries.

A recent study researched the top 20 winners/losers in the last algorithm update. They used a machine learning algo that rated hundreds of keywords from all the losers and winners and compared those to the top ranked pages against their proprietary measures of quality and they found that there wasn't much difference in quality between winners and losers.

When you look at a site like Mercola, their about page shows a TON of quality validation, citations from a lot of respected sources and so on. Their content is well written. But they're still among the biggest losers, having lost 99% of their traffic (by their estimation).

Greatness of content, E-A-T, Author bio, none of that helped them. For the kind of content they write, they are the top experts in that niche for "alternative" healing solutions.

But here is my point: Is that what users REALLY want when they Google for medical advice? Google apparently may have decided that no, that's not what most people want when they search for medical advice. I don't know that for certain, there could be some sentiment analysis going on, which also is a part of determining what people want, versus the greatness of content.

(I'm going to be publishing something about this study this weekend I hope).
10:45 pm on June 28, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I think your example does tend to validate my point if the content is created with a focus on user intents and being easily understood.

How? The content is the same. There is no objective reason that a person who looks at one page and finds that it meets their intent, would then find that the other page does not assuming of course that they were interested in this other facet. My real world analytics show this, many user that visit the first page go on to visit one of the others (there are 4 total).

Moreover, this can be tested, if content determined ranking and the content is the same then difference in traffic would be directly proportional to difference in keyword search volume. This is not the case. The facet that ranks is the least popular of the four the others, so it should generate the least traffic but it does the opposite, thus falsifying your claim that content is the predominant factor by which Google matches webpages to user intent.

As I said content is important but it is not sufficient.
1:29 am on June 29, 2019 (gmt 0)

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If you live by the keyword you can die by the keyword. Keywords shift values very frequently, sometimes within weeks or days!

TABLES are data, not "content". Granny Smith and Delicious are apples, identical in nearly all respects except for skin color and subtle taste and texture differences. Both are pretty much useless when the user is looking for a lime for his margarita.

Content can be consumed. Know your consumer and give them what they want, as they want it, when they want it. Nine times out of ten the "failing" great content is written to a grade level above most users, is a bit stale (complete and accurate but stale), and lacks any kind of entertainment value. Even info and edu stuff has to be entertaining.

When you can present paint drying as an action packed adventure romance you have achieved great content ... and the world will come looking to experience it.

As for chasing ranking with keywords, that boat has pretty much sailed. At present most of the better SEs already have more content indexed than they can possibly use...for the next 100 years!

Keep beating the dead horse and eventually folks get weary of watching---just ask Hollowood (sic) for the multiple box office fails of the same old "keyword" lookalikes in the past decade. The consumer is not static, they change all the time. All things change. The consumer is a fickle beast. Their tastes change---if nothing else---every generation.

These are true things, but do I have a magic blueprint to share? If I did I wouldn't share ALL of it. Have enough competition as it is. :)

What can be shared is past experience gained from 60 years in retail/entertainment with an overlap in computers running back to the early 1980s. What works on Tuesday might not work on Wednesday: Failure to recognize that will likely not end well.
11:55 am on June 30, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Might be unrelated, but to me this is the people/visitors who are deciding if a content is great or not :) This is them who will decide if a site is successful or not.
3:33 pm on June 30, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Might be unrelated, but to me this is the people/visitors who are deciding if a content is great or not :) This is them who will decide if a site is successful or not.

This is exactly what I said in my first post. One needs to create the content first then if ranks one can claim that it is great content. But as such, this is no of no value. One needs to know the elements or features that content must have before creating it such that it can be created to reach that top spot.

My claim is, while there are a certainly many features to good quality content, creating good quality content alone is not sufficient to reaching the top ranking.

Good quality content is necessary but not sufficient. (It could be argued that it is not even necessary, but I think that this may be true in some edge cases but you are certainly not helping yourself by publishing sub-par content)
9:15 pm on June 30, 2019 (gmt 0)

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...to me this is the people/visitors who are deciding if a content is great or not happy!


Yes, that is exactly my point in my first post where I wrote: "Greatness and what users want are two different things."

Google is in the business of identifying what people mean and what people want, when they make search queries. Greatness really has little to do with that.

One needs to know the elements or features that content must have before creating it such that it can be created to reach that top spot.


Yes, of course. It's what I do. I don't just create content, throw it up there and cross my fingers and hope it's what users want.

For many people, keyword/content research begins and ends at looking at keyword volume. That's rote and lacking.
5:56 pm on July 23, 2019 (gmt 0)

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The 2008 acme import widget has 248 mousepower.

vs.

Acme has been building widgets since 2000 and is one of the worlds top producers. They are based in anywheresville and employ 500 mice. The stock value of Acme is currently 800 feathers and the forecast is for continued growth. In 2008 they produced the acme import widget which was popular with all mice. Personally I like how it looks. My favorite feature is the rounded business end but some prefer the unique exhaust system. Either way it's an amazing widget that should produce around 248 mousepower if you properly maintain it and keep it in good condition.

-----------------------------------------

If I just want to know how much mousepower it has the first sentence will win in search 100% of the time. The moment the search potentially deviates into any of the rest of the meandering second paragraph then the first sentence will NOT show up at all. You can laser target the title of the page for the first sentence and the second paragraph will NEVER outrank that sentence. If that first sentence is searched for more than the cumulative of all of the second pararaph that first sentence will get more traffic.

Be specific, serve the intent as succinctly as possible and you will do well. Needing 3000 words for top ranking was a thing and is disapearing as fast as it showed up.

Note: If you pay for content and it's full of statements like "Everyone loves widgets" and "you need good widgets to stay ahead in 2019" type stuff expect to do really poorly. No, everyone doesn't love widgets and no, you don't universaly need something to accomplish a goal when many options exist. To humans it's normal speak, to an AI it's a falsehood.

Less is more, targeting is key. (and I have extensive proof of all of the above, except mice powered widgets of course)
5:24 am on July 26, 2019 (gmt 0)

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TLDR version: By how well it can be digested and how useful the knowledge provided is to have.
4:11 pm on July 26, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Iamlost:
Having great content for ranking in Google has never been directly synonymous with having great content for visitors. The two can overlap but the level of overlap varies significantly depending on whether created primarily for Google (low) or the visitor (high).

So true.

Instead of covering the whole gray-scale range I will go straight to black and white. It's kind of easy to think it's valid to create content and see if it ranks, if it engages SE's and readers, then it's good, right? (posted here and other threads), yes it's easy to agree with this. But we need something more to make this valid: if you are selling something, you need conversion. The thing is we all needs practical metrics, goals, and achievable goals. Long lost are those days when people only talked about traffic going up and up despite no email contact or sales, earnings, etc. We need to focus on some goals and change our strategy to reach them and confirm it's working, that's easily in our control sort of saying, but sure we can face scenarios where regardless of what we do it doesn't work, well, we also had in our control building and confirming (even if the results are bad) that's what I mean.

On the other hand I agree with the original post. What? yes. Sure we adhere to proven methods of writing, specially in terms of book and article writing, and if we can meet research guidelines then great!. But, what if the readers won't engage? what if the readers fail to get it? or they don't like it? is it bad content then? nope. The trick here is sticking to what's good, not to what the possibly dumb readers want, even if they don't engage. Why? because you are learning to write better pieces of work. And that might save your life.

Expanding on the previous paragraph, remember the old threads where forum members talked about Adsense failures, such great content, such great pictures, such great whatever but no earnings. So many people talking about hobby sites and authority sites. Yet earnings from Adsense failed. It sucks right? but... didn't they learn something along the way? so great content and can't use those skills on other markets? such great pictures and you can't make a difference taking photographs on some other market? I guess you see the picture here.

I started creating content (pictures) then stories, then I learned to create websites, this allowed me to make a living. Then creating websites became my main trade and income source. Things have changed a lot, I'm going back to making money via pictures and stories, not websites, it's been a while since I don't create a website for a client or for myself (I stick with my own already created long term websites). And surprisingly I'm earning more money via content creating and editing.

The way I see it, creating websites can be challenging, but if you decide to only stick to what your audience wants you might start to ruin your writing and editing skills, this will ruin you too. In the meantime you can sharpen your skills and make a living elsewhere, while creating content is your practice.
5:51 pm on July 26, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Great content is in the eye of the beholder ... and few of us has 20/20 vision in that regard. (sigh)